NEW YORK TIMES
Widespread Panic Proves Anything But
By ANN POWERS
Published: July 30, 1999
Roseland Ballroom - New York City, NY
07/27/99 - 07/28/99 Roseland Ballroom, New York, NY
07/27/99 Roseland Ballroom, New York, NY
1: Love Tractor > Fishwater > Dyin' Man, Blue Indian, Goin' Out West > Airplane > Blight > Climb To Safety
2: Walkin' (For Your Love) > One Arm Steve > Ophelia*, Swamp* > Christmas Katie* > Jam** > Drums*** > Space Wrangler > Tall Boy
E: Hope In A Hopeless World****
* with Dirty Dozen Brass Band
** with Julius McKee on sousaphone
*** with Terrence Higgins on percussion
**** with Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Warren Haynes on guitar
['Jam' before 'Drums' was Dave, Julius McKee, and the drummers;
07/28/99 Roseland Ballroom, New York, NY
1: Holden Oversoul, Makes Sense To Me > You'll Be Fine, Driving Song > Diner > Driving Song > Big Wooly Mammoth > Jack > Travelin' Light
2: All Time Low > Impossible > Bear's Gone Fishin' > Papa's Home > Don't Be Denied > Papa's Home > Drums* > Rebirtha** > Coconut**
E: Weight Of The World**, It's All Over Now**
* with Terrence Higgins on percussion
** with Dirty Dozen Brass Band
[The Dirty Dozen Brass Band opened]
setlists by Everydaycompanion.com
Usually at concerts, the most excited fans push up to the
front, riveted by their idols. Not so on Tuesday night at the first of two Roseland shows by the vastly popular, largely unhyped Widespread Panic, from Athens, Ga. The energy in the spacious theater was most intense near the back, where dozens of loose-limbed rock-and-roll gypsies grooved together.
Widespread Panic encourages this kind of reception.
The six-piece ensemble is at the top of the ''jam bands'' scene, a floating community that rejects star-oriented mainstream pop in favor of values that seem old-fashioned to some.
Playing blues- and country-based rock, singing lyrics full of pastoral images and workingman's philosophy, bands like Widespread Panic make music for dancing and relaxation.
If stars from Madonna to Marilyn Manson express the culture's shifting anxieties and desires, jam bands embody consistency, just doing their thing in peace.
Musically, this emphasis on lasting community has led such groups to preserve, in mutated forms, a century's worth of American musical traditions, from New Orleans jazz to bluegrass and Grateful
Dead-style psychedelic rock. If esthetic conservatism creeps in, leading players back to grooves and riffs that become ruts, that is the price of favoring steady revolution over novelty.
Widespread Panic gives this style a Southern twist, which makes the music meatier. Often compared to its Georgian predecessor the Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic is at least as influenced by New Orleans sounds.
Joined by its opening act, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, for much of Tuesday, Widespread Panic showed why it is the biggest draw these days at the Crescent City's annual Jazz and Heritage Festival.
John Hermann's keyboard playing owed a debt to Mac Rebennack, also known as Dr. John, who modernized stride piano playing in the 1960's. The work of the guitarist Mark Houser on ''Christmas Katie,'' one of the songs featuring the horn players, extended the river delta sound to include a nod to the Mississippi blues great Jimmy Reed. That song led into a drums-and-percussion interlude, with Domingo
(Sunny) Ortiz taking the mood international, finding remarkably melodic Latin and African beats on his congos.
For all this wandering, Widespread Panic continually returned to a homey focus on bar-band-style party music. The main vocalist, John Bell, sings as if he gargles dirt, and that's a compliment. The grittiness in his voice lends a soulfulness that grounds the songs' flights of fancy.
Widespread Panic's just-released seventh album, ''Til the Medicine Takes'' (Capricorn), deviates from the jam-band formula, even including some hip-hop-style scratching on one track. Live, the band stayed true to the Southern musical tradition, one that those who scorn this scene must admit still yields sweet fruits.